US Supreme Court Will Hear Appeal in Christie II Sports-Betting Case

US Supreme Court Will Hear Appeal in Christie II Sports-Betting Case

In something of a legal upset, the US Supreme Court announced this morning that it has granted certiorari in the “Christie II” sports-betting case. The appeal, which will be heard in October, pits the state of New Jersey and its New Jersey Throroughbred Horsemens Association against five prominent US-based sports organizations — the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA.

At stake, as it has been throughout the long legal battle over the Christie II bill and its predecessor, Christie I, is the ongoing legal viability of the widely hated federal-level Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). PASPA, which became US law in 1992, superceded states’ rights in estalishing a near-blanket prohibition on sports-betting throughout the US.

PASPA left only “grandfathered” states to continue offering sports-betting, which included most formats in Nevada, and a limited form of parlay betting in three other US states. Yet all PASPA really did was drive an established underground industry a little bit farther underground, and. once the Internet became a thing, to offshore locales as well.

New Jersey, where casino and gambling interests are an important part of the state’s economy, have sought to implement sports betting since 2011, when the state’s voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of sports wagering. It’s been stymied ever since by the aforementioned sports leagues, who filed suit against both the Christie I and Christie II legalization measures as signed into law in New Jersey.

The Christie II case, which has worked its way upward toward the Supreme Court for several years, was something of a longshot to be accepted. Just a few months ago, the potential appeal was assigned to the acting US Solicitor General, Jeffrey Wall, for review.

Wall, however, recommended that SCOTUS not grant certiorari in the case.  SCOTUS most often follows the USSG’s lead, but in this matter, the Supreme Court overrode the recommendation and accepted the case anyway.

There were some intriguing hints that SCOTUS was leaning toward granting the cert in recent days. One clue came when the case was not present at all in the initial listing of Supreme Court actions released on Monday, when the majority of writs submitted to the court in recent months was largely handled — mostly denied, as is the norm. Instead, the Christie II order was inserted into a smaller, follow-up list of actions released earlier today.

A second clue — a modification in the case’s core issue as it was listed in SCOTUS’ docket. On June 22nd, the case note was modified to show this:

Issue: Whether a federal statute that prohibits modification of state-law prohibitions on private conduct impermissibly commandeers the regulatory power of states in contravention of New York v. United States [a landmark states’ rights case].

This anti-commandeering issue has always been the core matter at stake in the Christie II battle, and its correct framing by SCOTUS likely increased the chances that SCOTUS would accept the case. More than that, it likely increases the chances of a successful appeal, too. As the NJ horseracing association noted in one of its prior briefs, the actual legal question is akin to several US states legalizing the use of marijuana in recent years, despite it being a listed illegal substance according to US federal law.

The only difference between the marijuana-legalization precedents and this matter is that in the Christie II case, the ultra-wealthy sports leagues are trying to keep PASPA in place for their own financial gain. The leagues can’t really use the artificially sanctified argument of “It’s for the protection of sports integrity,” especially after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver opined that sports wagering was okay under the right (regulated) circumstances, and the NHL has placed an expansion franchise in Las Vegas.

Filings regarding the upcoming appeal of the Christie II case to SCOTUS will first start hitting deadlines, though October is the earliest that the single hour of time granted for oral arguments will be heard.

According to a YouTube video posted on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s YouTube account, Christie said, “Well, I’m thrilled that we got certiorari at the Supreme Court. Very few cases get granted certiorari by the Supreme Court, so I’m very optimistic and looking forward to having conversations later today with Ted Olson who represents us on the Supreme Court.”

Added Christie, “And I don’t know, I’m feeling pretty good, he’s got a .750 winning percentage in the Supreme Court, so I feel pretty good having Ted Olson represent us. So you know, again, if the Supreme Court goes the other way I don’t know what our options are, but we’ll have to make that evaluation at the time. But the fact that the Supreme Court granted cert in this case is a very good sign for sports betting having a future in New Jersey. I’m encouraged by it. We’re not declaring victory, but at least we’re in the game and that’s what we want to be.”

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